On Tuesday evening, violence broke out between protesters and Spanish riot police as angry crowds threatened to storm Madrid's Congress building. The protesters took to the streets to voice their anger at their government's austerity policies, as we reported earlier this week. Spain suffers a 50% unemployment among its youth and many are unhappy with the financial demands put on Spain by the rest of Europe. In the October issue of Dazed & Confused, Spanish writer Begona Gomez Urzaiz spoke to a few creatives from her countries lost generation. Yesterday we re-visited a few, here's the rest of her interviews...
Luna Miguel, poet, journalist and aspiring publisher
A literary wunderkind with an intense online presence, Luna is an anomaly in a generation defined by ‘leaving things for later’. At 21, she’s published two poetry books, curated a third, held a column in a national newspaper (now defunct) and dabbled in publishing.
Dazed Digital: At your age, you’ve only known the recession as a work environment.
Luna Miguel: My friends and I see it as an obstacle we have to overcome. There those who can’t even think of leaving the comforts of the family home, who won’t even try. To those I say: get moving and you’ll achieve something.
DD: You were very involved in the indignado movement. What is your view now?
Luna Miguel: Yes, that was intense. It was the most visible part of a series of things that were happening, in all sections of society. But there is too much to be done and the end doesn’t seem to be near.
DD: If you had to lend a foreigner a book, a record and a film that explained what has happened in Spain in the last three years, which would they be?
Luna Miguel: I wouldn’t. I’d tell them to go into Facebook, or a university hall, or a bookshop or market. If they were here with us, and saw footage of our vomit-inducing politicians, they’d understand the situation very quickly.
Mónica Thurme and Mariana Lerma, architects and designers
“My son the architect” used to be a phrase that would make any Spanish mama gleam with pride. In the mid-00s, Spain had more building sites than the UK, Germany, France and Italy put together. Someone had to design all those houses, and being an architect was a sure way to wealth and glory. Not any more. Mónica and Mariana, both 26, witnessed their profession change dramatically while they were at university. But financial Armageddon hasn’t stopped them from starting WOW, their own design study, with four other young hopefuls.
DD: At WOW you’re winning awards and great reviews, but can you make a living?
Mónica Thurme and Mariana Lerma: Not really, what we earn is not enough yet. Most of us still live with parents. We take odd jobs, work for other studies.
DD: When you went into architecture school, the situation was very different.
Mónica Thurme and Mariana Lerma: Graduates would go and get well-paid jobs immediately, some of them opening their own firms. Now most of our classmates are working abroad, without any prospects of ever returning, or giving up architecture altogether: one works in a bank, another has opened a cupcake shop and so on.
DD: Can ‘poor design’ also be better design?
Mónica Thurme and Mariana Lerma: Yes, the combination of cheaper and more primitive materials in the hands of talented people is a very promising one. We’re also interested in the work of artisans that is in danger of getting lost.
Mery Cuesta, art curator
As a cross-pollinator in the art world and drummer for the rock band Crapulesque, Cuesta (b. 1975) has always been interested in areas of Spanish culture overlooked by the intelligentsia, such as quinqui cinema, a genre of cheap, violent movies that romanticised the criminal heroin-fuelled underworld of the 80s. She reckons this devastating recession could generate equally interesting cultural artifacts.
DD: You’ve just curated an exhibition of cinema dedicated to ‘absurd humour in difficult times’. Is that a typical Spanish response to trouble?
Mery Cuesta: Post-war Spain generated a kind of humour that now is being rescued. But I’m not sure this is typically Spanish; dealing with pressure with comedy is an inherent reaction of any intelligent individual.
DD: Will we look back at these years and find a ‘culture of the crisis’?
Mery Cuesta: Digital tools speed things up so, yes, I think the arts are already reflecting what is going on. I’d mention things like the interesting tV series Crematorio, which points at the property bubble as the prelude of the crisis, Paco Roca’s comic book Crónica de una Crisis Anunciada and the new satirical magazine Mongolia.
DD: Are there any positive effects in the arts?
Mery Cuesta: The recession is weeding out the phoneys and the intruders, which is not a bad thing. there used to be corruption, nepotism, overspending... Now only people with talent and imagination survive.
Raquel Corcoles, illustrator and comic writer
A quick way to understand comic strip Moderna de Pueblo (“Hipster from the Village”) is as the Spanish answer to Girls, except without the $3,000-a-month apartments and rich parents. Moderna the character also looks rather similar to her creator, Raquel Córcoles (b. 1987), whose comics reflect the classic financial paradox of the young and urban: you never have money for groceries, but magically have enough for neon-yellow nail polish.
DD: What is Moderna’s bank balance at the end of the month?
Raquel Corcoles: She must make like, €800 a month or so, kind of what I was making in advertising a couple of years ago. But that doesn’t stop her buying €100 shoes from time to time. Or living in the centre of Madrid.
DD: Some of those hipsters from the village are now leaving the city and moving back to their hometown.
Raquel Corcoles: Yes, definitely. They have to return home, since they can no longer afford the lifestyle. Or even the rent.
DD: Is the recession reinforcing the Peter Pan syndrome of many?
Raquel Corcoles: I have many friends who are 27 and have never had a paid job, so they’re doing the same things I did when I was 17. They need a change of mentality – you can’t go around thinking, ‘I studied architecture so I’m an unemployed architect.’ It’s more like ‘I managed to finish a difficult degree, which means I’m smart and talented enough to go and build something for myself.’ Nobody is going to come and give you a job. They don’t exist any more.
Carlos Vermut, filmmaker
Diamond Flash, a bizarre deconstruction of a superhero movie, is the season’s cult hit in underground circuits in Spain. Its technical crew was made up of a grand total of three people, and its budget was €25,000 euros, which its director, comic illustrator and cinema director Carlos Vermut (b. 1980), had managed to save.
DD: You have said often that you don’t make films to make money.
Carlos Vermut: What I mean is that I filmed Diamond Flash as a way of learning. It’s an investment in itself. I live off cinema nowadays but I don’t want it to become my ‘job’; I don’t want it to stop being a pleasure.
DD: Your film has been labelled ‘low cost’. Is that the only way to do things right now?
Carlos Vermut: Low cost, or indie, has always existed but distribution used to be an obstacle, which doesn't exist any more. the smaller the financial risk is, the bigger the artistic risk can be. In that way, I think spain’s situation right now is fragile but thrilling.
DD: What will we see when we look back at the culture produced in these turbulent years?
Carlos Vermut: Hopefully, we’ll see them as years of profound experimentation. Major changes are happening everywhere, obviously, but maybe in Spain the breakdown is more noticeable because we were coming from a system that was so dependent on state funding.